Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a coop, a rooster and a recipe

A while back I blogged about my husband making me do a little research on chicken coops before he let me go all out with my chicken farm idea.  Well that first coop that I toured was pretty much what I had in mind for my own, and the owner Dee Dee, was happy with it, so hubby let me go ahead and proceed with my plan.
I had it easy because my barn was recently vacated by my horse.  I had her for 18 years, but with the kids being the age they are, I really wasn’t getting to spend as much time riding as she deserved, so I leased her out to a girl who gives her plenty of love and attention.  So, that left my feed/tack room ready to be made into a chicken home.
Yesterday I cleaned the coop so it was a good time to share.  Here it is…
DSC_0679DSC_0661DSC_0667DSC_0678DSC_0663  DSC_0675
In case you are wondering why it says “ROW” behind that hen, it is because our barn is built out of repurposed lumber and those planks were actually stadium seats at a race track.  Now you know.
Anyway, here is the rundown on the chicken coop…
Bedding: I chose to use wood shavings, which are pretty affordable at about $8 a bag (one bag fills my coop) and last several months.  The hens are kept in for part of the day, so they will scratch around and mix their droppings in with the shavings, otherwise, the droppings would just sit on top and be stinky and messy.  An alternative is to manually turn and ‘stir’ the bedding every day.  The bedding makes great garden compost when it is time to change it out!
Feed: I have to admit I have not bitten the bullet and gone for organic feed yet – it is nearly twice as costly, and my hens have two acres to roam and eat, so I really feel like the layer feed is almost a supplement.  Still, I think I will research and try to find the organic feed more affordably.  I chose to go with a hanging feeder, which prevents the bedding and droppings from getting into the food.  I keep the extra feed in a garbage can with a lid to deter rodents.  I also have a large rubber dish to put fruit and veggie scraps in, so that whatever the ladies don’t eat doesn’t get mixed with the bedding, that way I can toss it out; also to keep rodents from coming around for free snacks.
Water:  As in Dee Dee’s coop that I toured, I chose to be a rebel and go with a water bucket.  The chicken waterers get full of bedding so quickly and you have to unscrew them to clean and refill them.  There are nice hanging versions like my feeder, but I am too cheap.   
Eggs:  Dee Dee gave me two extra milk crates that she had and I found one at a yard sale, so I used those for the laying boxes.  I secured two to the wall, to keep the eggs out of the reach of curious beaks, but left one on the ground in case the ladies didn’t like the high-rise nest boxes.  But the big Rhode Island Red climbed right in while I was taking pictures!  The egg in the pic is a fake egg to encourage laying in the nest box; she laid a nice brown egg after I left, with Mark watching. 
Perch:  I have access to the woods, so I like using natural branches for perches.  That is more comfortable for the hens than a square board, and doesn’t require sanding the corners down.
That is my coop.  I hope you weren’t all excited, expecting something like this.  I’m a little too redneck for that.  She sells those plans though, and if my hubby liked projects like that I might have had to go for it.
Okay, look what I discovered at the crack of dawn one morning last week… Do you notice a difference in these two hens?
Yeah, that’s because the she on the right is actually a he.  As in a rooster.  As in he crows at the crack of dawn.  Actually he makes strange dying animal noises at the crack of dawn; he’s still growing into his role. 
It is comical that this one turned out to be a male.  Chicks at the co-ops are all supposed to be hens, unless marked as “not sexed” meaning they didn’t separate the males from females and you have a 50/50 chance of getting a rooster.  I loathe interrupted sleep and so I was careful to only pick the from the selection of females.  Well this breed is called “Black Sex-Link” because, apparently, they are especially able to tell males from females at hatching?  Hmmm. 
Okay, on to the recipe.  I have had compliments on my Caesar salad, so I thought I would share my tips and a few special ingredients. 
Romaine Lettuce
Parmesan Cheese (I like Frigo brand)
Fresh ground pepper
Dressing (LiteHouse is my favorite)
Croutons (these from Costco are the only good ones I have found!)
I chop my lettuce pretty small.  I usually use about two hearts of romaine.
Then I grate my parmesan using a big grater, like you would for cheddar.  I think you taste it more that way, and other people have agreed.
I squeeze on the juice of about  a quarter to half of the lemon, depending on how big it is.  This time was about a quarter.
Then I chop the olives in half.  Yes, I know they come in a can already sliced but to me those ones are mushy.  Yes, I know I am crazy.
Then I chop up an avocado, unless my husband is eating with us, in which case I don’t because his throat will swell shut. 
I add about a quarter to half a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper.
A dollop of dressing, toss it up, top with some croutons, and there you have it!
And hey, if you end up with a rooster in your flock, you could always add some fresh grilled chicken!! 

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